Column: Tales from Exit 22

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2006

It’s the question husbands dread: &8216;What are you thinking about?’

By Al Batt

I sit in the chair that suits my sitting best.

I relax.

My wife sees me with my guard down and springs a surprise attack.

She hits me with that question that apparently has been troubling wives for centuries.

&8220;Honey?&8221; she says.

&8220;Huh?&8221;&160; I respond wisely.&160;Such responses along with various grunts give a man an air of mystery.

&8220;What are you thinking about?&8221; she asks.

I knew there would be a test. I should have taken better notes.

My wife’s questions have changed during the years of our marriage.&160; They have gone from &8220;Are you thinking what I’m thinking?&8221; to &8220;What were you thinking?&8221;

But this one question has remained a constant.&160;&8220;Honey, what are you thinking about?&8221;

I respond as husbands have been responding for as long as wives have been posing the question.

&8220;Nothing.&8221;

This is never a good enough answer for my bride. As a woman, she is not capable of understanding how it is possible to think of nothing.&160;The word &8220;husband&8221; is short for &8220;I don’t understand my husband.&8221;

It’s easy for me to think of nothing.&160;If I wanted to turn things over in my mind, I’d stand on my head.&160;A man can go weeks between thoughts.&160;And that’s counting, &8220;I wonder if thinking about thinking counts as a thought?&8221; as a thought.

I could attempt to explain to her that husbands are capable of attaining a Zen state where our mind becomes as clear as freshly-Windexed window glass. Everything is cleansed from the old brain and all that remains is just enough brain activity to sustain life.

I could tell her that it takes years of fishing and watching televised sports to achieve this state. First, we practice professional wrestling moves in our minds.&160;It isn’t long before our brains become an area where Dust Busters would be overworked.

I could point out the times when I come home and the house feels like a walk-in cooler and there are icicles hanging from the light fixtures, I, being sharper than the average marble, quickly assess the situation and realize that my lovely bride is unhappy with me. When I ask her what is wrong, she responds with a terse, &8220;Nothing!&8221; Now I know that her &8220;nothing&8221; is far from nothing.&160; &160;&160;

I could plead the case that men are from Mars and women are from Venus.

I could attempt to explain all of this to my lovely wife, but I will not.

I could endeavor to explain that men, and I think I am speaking for all married men here, are not good with questions.&160;Maybe it’s because we secretly don’t watch &8220;Desperate Housewives&8221; or &8220;Oprah.&8221;

Oh, we have the answers.&160; The problem is that our answers aren’t usually the ones our wives want to hear.&160; All our words are open to interpretation.&160;I specialize in the wrong answers. Questions are not a good way of dealing with a man.&160; If you want a man to do something, don’t ask us.&160; Tell us.&160;If you want us to talk, don’t ask us questions.

&160;

I wait for a second question, &8220;Come on, you can tell me.&160;What are you thinking?&8221;

Jerry Springer could have a show titled, &8220;Honey, what are you thinking?&8221;

I consider secretly adjusting her bathroom scale one turn clockwise.

Marriage is a team sport.&160; The average married man lies 197 times a day &045; all out of self-preservation.&160; Some men actually are thinking, but are fearful that if they told their wives what they were thinking, the wives would call the cops.&160;My cousin the dentist is married to a manicurist.&160;He always tells his wife the truth.&160;They fight tooth and nail.&160;We, the survivors, lie to be kind.

If my wife asks me if her clothes make her look fat, I ask her if they make me look stupid. Then I remember the Pavlovian response that every husband should respond with when he hears the word &8220;fat&8221; and say, emphatically, &8220;No!&8221;

I pretend to give much thought to my wife’s question as to what I was thinking about.&160;I adopt a contemplative pose before I reply, &8220;I’m thinking about you, of course, darling.&8221;

It’s a good answer.

It’s one of those little white lies that we tell. I prefer to think of it as subtlety rather than a falsehood.

It makes my wife happy to hear it.

It makes me happy to be able to stop thinking about what I wasn’t thinking about.

&160;

Remember, what happens in a man’s mind stays in a man’s mind.

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(Al Batt resides in Hartland. What happens in Hartland doesn’t stay in Hartland.)